Does 'Let's Move' Unfairly Target Overweight Children?

First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move campaign aims to help a seemingly worthy cause, rampant childhood obesity. Her goal is to involve families, schools, elected officials and more in the effort to improve nutrition, increase exercise and reduce weight-related health problems. Yet the campaign has not been without criticism, though it's possible the criticism is less about the campaign and more about politics.

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A Mix of Criticism

The Let's Move campaign is focused on the unhealthy habits of overweight children. Critics have questioned whether the campaign targets these children rather than helping them. As the campaign has gained momentum, voices are emerging that suggest Let's Move stigmatizes overweight children. This unintended consequence could be devastating for a group that already suffers from low self-esteem.

The danger of making overweight children feel like targets springs from this vulnerability. Often, bullying or mistreatment that stems from their weight problems drives these children to turn to food for comfort. This potentially deleterious attention may then do more harm than good.

Other critics, primarily aspiring Republican presidential candidates and right-wing talk show hosts, have accused Mrs. Obama of enforcing a 'nanny state.' They argue that the Let's Move campaign is the unnecessary intrusion of the federal government into overweight children's lives. For these critics, Let's Move is an infringement upon the rights of overweight children to live how they choose to live.

Is It Just Sour Grapes?

Much of the most vocal criticism of Let's Move may be a product of an increasingly polarized and toxic political climate. Recent first ladies have tackled a variety of societal problems, including Nancy Reagan taking on teenage drug use and Laura Bush working to end illiteracy. Yet none has faced the vitriol Mrs. Obama has encountered. Often, critics of the campaign resort to nitpicking about the reported dietary habits of the First Lady. Even when chastising Let's Move as a symbol of an overreaching government, few critics offer suggestions for how else to combat the very real and growing epidemic of childhood obesity.

In Defense of Let's Move

Defenders of Let's Move note that the campaign is less about singling out overweight children than it is about promoting healthy habits among all children. For example, when a fitness center partners with Let's Move to encourage physical fitness, it doesn't open its doors to only the obese; all children are welcomed and praised for improving their health.

Furthermore, Let's Move's supporters argue that the campaign is a multi-faceted approach to the issue. Rather than targeting children, they counter, Let's Move aims to work with communities and national organizations to enable children to live better lives. This has ranged from getting soft drink machines out of schools to getting inner city drug stores to carry more fresh fruit and vegetables. Actions such as these create healthier environments and provide children with the opportunities to avoid the temptation of junk food and discover the benefits of healthy eating.

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